Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok rose to speak in the Legislature this week to champion sustainable funding for Avalanche Canada.
Avalanche Canada is headquartered in Revelstoke and Clovechok has been working on their funding for two years.
Avalanche Canada services all of Canada, Clovechok says, with 14 regions and over 330,000 square kilometres A full 98 per cent of that terrain is in British Columbia.
“When Canada provided funding it was on the understanding that provinces would chip in proportionately. Funding from provinces is expected to be proportionate to services provided,” Clovechok said. “95 per cent of the regions are in B.C. 80 per cent of the budget is spent in B.C. 75 per cent of avalanche fatalities occur in B.C. Eight people have died this year, all from B.C.”
He says that in the Yukon the contribution to Avalanche Canada is about $1.40 per resident. In B.C. it’s eight cents.
On top of that, the funding from B.C. is from gaming grants and has to be applied for each year, while Clovechok says funding from the Yukon and Alberta is sustainable.
He says he spoke to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth two years ago and received a commitment that the provincial government would provide $1 million per year.
“But when he went to the Treasury Board and asked for the money, they said no. We’re still having this conversation two years later.”
Gilles Valade, executive director of Avalanche Canada says they remain hopeful that the provincial budget to be presented this spring will include that $1 million in sustainable funding for Avalanche Canada.
Right now, he says, B.C. doesn’t provide enough money in proportion to the services they get.
“If you remove B.C. there’s no avalanche problem in Canada,” he said.
He says the need to apply for funding each year is a challenge. For instance, it’s difficult for the Avalanche Canada board of directors to sign off on a budget with uncertainty in funding.
“We have to approve the budget and work plans on the hope of funding arriving,” Valade said.
Both Clovechok and Valade say it is particularly important that funding is sustainable now, as the pandemic has seen a huge increase in backcountry use, and many of these new users are inexperienced.
“I am hopeful that in this year’s budget, something will happen,” Valade said. “The Minister committed to that amount of money. They wouldn’t have made the commitment if they weren’t planning on following through. We’re trying to stay positive. We need that money to make the machine work is the bottom line.”